World briefs (8/16/12)
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SYDNEY -- The lower house of Australia's Parliament passed sweeping changes in immigration policy Wednesday that are meant to deter asylum seekers who try to reach the country by the thousands each year on rickety, overcrowded ships and boats.
In a major reversal, the measures would reopen a chain of offshore detention centers that human rights groups have criticized as inhumane and possibly illegal. The Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard largely abandoned use of the detention centers when it came to power in 2007.
In another development, the country's highest court ruled Wednesday against multinational tobacco companies that had sought to block one of the world's toughest cigarette labeling laws from taking effect in Australia in December.
TOKYO -- Japan arrested a group of Hong Kong activists Wednesday for landing on an island claimed by both Japan and China in the latest episode of a dispute that has strained relations between Asia's two biggest economies.
Five activists were detained and Japan summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a complaint, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said. He and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the men would be treated "strictly according to Japanese law."
The arrests, on the 67th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that ended World War II, came as Japan and South Korea struggled to overcome a separate maritime territorial dispute that has frayed ties. The bickering comes ahead of leadership contests this year in all three countries.
NEW DELHI -- More than 250 Pakistani Hindus have arrived in India over the past two weeks bearing tales of religious persecution, according to Indian border officials, fueling perceptions of growing discrimination against minorities in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Hindus, who came by road and rail with valid pilgrimage visas from Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab provinces, have reported incidents of kidnapping, looting and forced religious conversion, the officials said.
Pakistan has 2.7 million Hindus in a majority-Muslim population of 180 million. They represent those who chose to stay after the sectarian bloodbath that accompanied the 1947 partition of the subcontinent at the end of British rule.
CAIRO -- Egypt's new defense minister has pledged his "unwavering commitment" to the American-Egyptian military alliance, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.
Gen. Abdelfatah al-Seesi also "stressed that he takes seriously Egypt's obligations under the Camp David Treaty" with Israel, Mr. Panetta said, recounting at a Pentagon news conference Wednesday a phone conversation with the general.
LONDON -- Prince Philip, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, was admitted to a hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland "as a precautionary measure," the third time he has been hospitalized in eight months.
Prince Philip, 91, was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary while staying at Balmoral, the monarch's Scottish residence where she traditionally spends her summers, Buckingham Palace said in a statement released Wednesday through the Press Association news service. No details were given of the state of health of the Duke of Edinburgh, as Prince Philip is formally known.
First Published August 16, 2012 12:00 am